You don't need to hire "the best" - here's what to do instead
Updated: May 1, 2019
By Joe Farris
With the unemployment rate at the historically low level of 4%, the war for the top talent rages on. Attempting to attract the best people, many companies offer top quartile pay, expansive benefit plans, fun office spaces and creative perks. Competing for the best talent with companies like Google and Facebook is very hard and very expensive.
But consider this: You do not really need to hire the "best" people for every role. Instead, leaders should focus on hiring the right people for the right roles, who will be accountable for the right outcomes.
The "best" people versus the right people
As companies strive for the best results in business, they often look for the "best" people in the field to join the team. The best people are believed to be top domain experts who are strategic and visionary, who can also roll up their sleeves and do the work. They can lead teams and they can work by themselves. They amassed a tremendous amount of knowledge that they will bring to the table, and at the same time have a beginner’s mindset to solve the new challenges that business throws at them. They are unicorns, and they come with a salary in the top decile, a rich benefits package and workplace perks that support their lifestyle on their must-have job offer list.
The truth is that hiring for this description of the best people for all positions in your company is expensive and not sustainable. Your business would certainly benefit from having the best people in strategic leadership roles like a CEO, CFO or COO where they will make strategic decisions about the direction of the business that impact the company’s bottom line — and take the hit when things go wrong. Everyone else? They should be the right people in the right roles, accountable for the right outcomes.
Now, how can you draw the line between the best people and the right people?
Evaluate your business needs
Start by analyzing your business objectives, the types of roles that you have, the skills those roles require and the impact they have on the company’s success. Some roles are essential to developing and driving strategy, and some are responsible for execution.
One of the most common ways to segment the employee population is by role and function: the leadership team versus tech talent versus fulfillment and operations impact the business differently and should be measured in different ways. And, in turn, these employee groups have different levels of motivation and rewards.
Understand your employee needs
The next step is to understand what these employee groups value and what their drivers are: What does it take to motivate and reward these people in order for them to generate results for your business?
When you identify employee needs, you can start customizing the rewards for different segments of your population. Your choices can make an impact on economic production, employee satisfaction and customer service while optimizing the costs (including the cost of labor).
Aim for job excellence, not promotion
Aiming to hire the best people means that you’re always competing with companies that can (and will) offer more attractive benefit packages and rewards. How can an organization begin to compete with that? Focus on job excellence and accountability, in addition to or maybe instead of promotions and upward mobility in all parts of your business.
Do not get me wrong: Rewards are important, hence the recommendation to understand the needs of your employees. However, too many companies try to keep their top-performing employees by constantly promoting them, setting a wrong motivation and driving the cost of labor up, which is neither a smart nor a sustainable approach.
Make sure that your employees enjoy what they do. Look for alignment between their professional and personal goals and the company’s mission, and that they are aware of the positive impact their work makes on the company.
Now that you have organized the right areas to invest in, convey your approach through both internal and external employer branding initiatives. Your values for the job excellence, accountability and rewarding the employees should translate into a great workplace experience that employees will enjoy. If your employees love their work, they will talk about it outside the office, creating a positive word of mouth about your employer brand.
Now that you know that you do not need the supposed best people in all parts of your business, focus on hiring the right people for the right roles, and you will see the right results for your business.
The article was originally published in Forbes magazine.
About the author:
Joe Farris is a co-founder at Nua Group, a San Francisco-based Human Resources consulting firm specializing in total rewards. Joe challenges organizations to think beyond the median, focusing on people-related investments that drive meaningful workforce and business outcomes. He helps organizations build great companies through bold and differentiated people strategies.